I miss the trashy old Brian DePalma of the early ‘80’s; the post-Dressed to Kill years in which critics savaged him and feminists decried him. I miss the senseless nudity and self-indulgent camera trickery. I miss the style over substance, and the shameless borrowing from Hitchcock. Say what you will about this phase in DePalma’s career, but I find these films to be amongst his best and most fascinating works, and Body Double, the 1984 film that, amongst other things, introduced U.S. audiences to Frankie Goes to Hollywood, is one of my favorites.
Craig Wasson (remember him?) stars as Jake Scully, a down-on-his-luck actor who has not only recently lost an acting gig (thanks to his pesky claustrophobia), but has also caught his girl in bed with another man, and now finds himself homeless. Enter Sam Bouchard (Henry), Jake's newest, bestest friend, as well as a fellow actor who just so happens to need a substitute housesitter to watch over the hilltop manse he, himself, is looking after. And oh what a house it is, replete with a big spinning bed, fully stocked bar, and an excellent view of Gloria (Shelton), the sexy neighbor who, according to Sam, does a striptease in her bedroom at the same time every night.
"Like Clockwork," he says.
Jake, of course, can’t resist watching her, and, in doing so, finds that he is not alone in his peeping tomfoolery, as a deformed, hulking Native American welder (I’m not making this up!) is also watching the woman. Jake senses danger, and decides to follow Gloria around L.A. (stopping only to sniff the pair of lacey panties she dumped in the trashcan outside of the lingerie store he followed her to. I’m still not making anything up, folks).
Jake follows her to a beachfront motel, where he gets in a brief bout of fisticuffs with the Indian fella after he makes off with Gloria’s purse. After that, and for seemingly no reason at all, Gloria starts to make out with Jake ferociously, and then bursts into tears and runs away. Jake then gets home just in time to witness the Indian drilling into Gloria’s wall safe just as she's pulls into her driveway! Jake rushes to her house to save her, but he's too late! Of course, this wouldn’t be a murder mystery without the murder, and Gloria gets it good. With a drill. A really, really big drill. It’s as if DePalma feared we wouldn’t get the phallic symbol with a normal drill, and decided to give the Indian something one would use to carve through schools. “Look at my wingspan,” cries DePalma. “Watch me soar!”
Jake soon finds himself something of a suspect, and does what any man suspected of murder would do; get really hammered and watch porn on a spinning bed. It is then that he sees an advert for Holly Body’s (Griffith) latest flick, and notices that her dancing looks familiar. Could it be that Holly Body was actually the woman he watched dance in Gloria’s house? There's only one way to find out, of course, and that is to...errr...star in a porno movie with her.
Okay, I’ve probably said too much, but, to be honest, if you watch this movie and don’t figure out who the killer is in the first fifteen minutes, you probably aren’t able to read this review anyway. Besides, all of that stuff takes a backseat to the sheer lunacy, perversion, and rampant misogyny that makes Body Double such a guilty pleasure. It’s violent, sexy, thrilling, and entertaining. Sure, one could drive a Hummer filled with giraffes through the plot holes in this one, but I guarantee you’d have a good time doing it, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a better looking piece of sleaze cinema anywhere.
Sony offers up this one in a new special edition DVD that features a four part "retrospective" about the flick. I would have loved a commentary, just to see where DePalma's head was at when he made this movie, but, alas, he reserves those for his "serious" films like Scarface (groan) and The Untouchables. Oh, and why not throw in that Frankie Goes to Hollywood video DePalma directed? I imagine there would be rights issues to iron out, but once you see DePalma's bondage-and-hookers version of that song's video, the cheap one with the fog machine and laser beams just doesn't cut it.
While Body Double isn’t nearly as risqué as it was back in the eighties (this was quite the controversial flick in its day), this film still has the tools to offend (just ask my wife) and the power to entertain. Come back, ol' perverted, misogynistic Brian. We miss ye.